Here are the 10 statewide amendments voters will see on the ballot in November

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A "Vote Here" sign by the entrance to a polling place in Birmingham

Ten proposed statewide constitutional amendments will be on the ballot on November 8, 2022

Andrew Yeager, WBHM

Amendment 1: Denying bail to defendants charged with violent crimes

Known as Aniah’s Law, Amendment 1 would allow judges to deny bail to individuals charged with any of the following 13 first-degree violent crimes: capital murder, murder, kidnapping, rape, sexual torture, sodomy, domestic violence, human trafficking, burglary, robbery, arson, terrorism and aggravated child abuse.

The amendment actually expands upon a constitutional provision that allows judges to deny bail for defendants charged with capital offenses, such as murder. The amendment would make clear that all of the violent crimes listed would fall under that jurisdiction.

The law is named after Homewood-native Aniah Blanchard, a 19-year-old student at Southern Union State Community College who was abducted in Auburn in late 2019 and later killed. The man accused of her murder was out on bail awaiting his trial for a previous kidnapping case.

Revocation of bail would not be automatic. Before a decision could made, the judge would have to hold a hearing, allowing both prosecutors and defense attorneys to present evidence in the case.

Amendment 2: Allows government entities to grant money for expansion of broadband 

Amendment 2 is part of the state’s efforts to expand broadband. Lawmakers proposed it earlier this year to allow a local government to give federal money “to any public or private entity for the purpose of providing or expanding broadband infrastructure.”

It is needed because current constitution language prohibits local governments from granting “public money or a thing of value in aid of, or to any individual, association or corporation….” If passed, the amendment would allow local governments to award broadband grants to providers, much like the state is currently doing.

Amendment 3: Notification of commutation

Amendment 3 would require the governor to provide notice to the attorney general and the victim’s family prior to granting a reprieve or commutation to a person sentenced to death. It also voids the reprieve or commutation if the governor does not provide notice.

The current constitution gives the governor of Alabama the power to commute a death sentence to life imprisonment or issue a reprieve from an execution. The amendment would not otherwise limit or restrict the governor’s ability to grant reprieves or commutations.

The amendment would place restrictions on a power that Alabama governors rarely use. According to the Montgomery Advertiser, Fob James is the only Alabama governor to have commuted a death sentence since the state resumed carrying out executions in 1983.

Amendment 4: Election law time limits

Amendment 4 would require any law enacted by the Alabama Legislature — that’s related to the conduct of general elections — to be passed at least six months prior to the election.

The measure would require election-related laws to take effect by the first week of May each year. Such a limit would essentially give state lawmakers one month less to pass election-related legislation in presidential years.

That’s because, in presidential election years, the legislature convenes in February and often doesn’t wrap up the session until mid-to-late May. During state election years, sessions begin in January and meet until mid-to-late April.

Amendment 5: Orphan business

If approved, Amendment 5 would delete language in the constitution about county probate judges’ oversight of “orphans’ business.”

Senator Will Barfoot, Republican from Pike Road, sponsored the measure. He told the Montgomery Advertiser that the Alabama Law Institute, which helps revise and clarify out-of-date laws, requested the change, saying that it was basically the deletion of “archaic language.”

The amendment doesn’t change any laws related to minors. Whether or not the law passes, probate courts would continue to handle adoptions and guardianship matters in the state, while juvenile courts would still oversee legal matters related to minors.

Amendment 6: Pay-as-you-go for municipal projects

Amendment 6 would allow cities to use ad valorem taxes to fund capital projects and repay bonds.

An early amendment to the Alabama Constitution allows about 40 municipalities in the state, including Birmingham, to only use ad valorem tax revenue to pay off debt for capital improvement projects. Amendment 6 would dissolve that old restriction and allow the cities to “pay-as-you-go” for projects with that tax money, possibly avoiding having to go into debt.

As the law is now, many cities have to take out a loan, even when they have the money available through that tax revenue, to pay off project costs as they’re incurred. 

Amendment 7: County-level economic development

Amendment 7 would clear up laws concerning how counties conduct economic development initiatives, allowing them to save money and time in those efforts.

State rules are often overly restrictive or just plain confusing when it comes to how local governments pursue business development in their jurisdictions. For instance, as with Amendment 2, the state constitution says municipalities can’t give individuals or entities a “thing of value.”  In the case of Amendment 6, the state has even lorded over how cities can pay for capital improvement projects.

And so it is with economic development. For decades, counties that wanted to pursue local economic development efforts had to have individual amendments put into the constitution. Amendment 759 added several counties at once, including Jefferson, Mobile, and Baldwin. Not long after that came Amendment 772, which extended those powers to every county.

But the counties included under the pre-772 amendments had to first get approval from a judge before they could borrow money for public-private partnerships. That often added significant costs and required additional time, which sometimes caused those businesses being pursued to go elsewhere.

Amendment 7 would get rid of that need for loan approval. It would also declare any projects initiated under the terms of Amendment 772 valid, whether they were counties covered by 759 or their own individual constitutional amendments.

Amendments 8 and 9: Local sewer oversight and rates

Both Amendments 8 and 9 would bring select, private sewer systems in Shelby, Tuscaloosa, and Jefferson counties under oversight of the Public Service Commission for a prescribed amount of time. Some customers have long complained that their private sewer operators charge excessive fees for their services.

Amendment 8 applies to Shelby County. WBMA-TV reports that residents who use Southwest Water said their rates had more than tripled in a relatively short period. Southwest Water argued it was following an agreed-upon rate structure and that it had reached out to the Shelby County Commission to address the issue.

In the case of Amendment 9, residents of Lake View, which straddles the line between Tuscaloosa and Jefferson counties, have battled with Tannehill Sewer, a private sewer company. In 2021, the company was ordered to pay three households in the community $4.7 million. The families testified the company had billed them excessive fees.

Amendment 8, if passed, would bring Southwest Water under the regulation of the Alabama Public Service Commission for an undeclared amount of time. Amendment 9 would put the private system under the regulation of the Public Service Commission from 2023 to 2027.

Amendment 10: All together now

If the new, recompiled constitution is ratified, Amendment 10 would allow the other nine amendments, as well as local amendments on this year’s ballot, to be placed in the new constitution.

Amendment 10 also says that any case law and court decisions settled in the 1901 Constitution carries forward to the 2022 version.

See the 2022 proposed statewide amendments on the Alabama of Secretary of State website.

See the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama‘s analysis of the amendments.

 

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